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Babes in the Wood at Roleystone Theatre

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Fine time for pantomime: festive family fun
Babes in the Wood, pantomime, Roleystone Theatre, festive, Graduate Dramatic Society, GRADS, kids, children, family, performing arts
Sienna Freeman as Jane and Charlie Martin as Jeremy are the so-called "babes

Boo, hiss he's behind you! Traditional pantomime fun for the whole family comes alive this December with Babes in the Wood, featuring song and dance, gender-swapped roles, groan-worthy jokes and an avalanche of ad-libbing.

Presented by the Graduate Dramatic Society at Roleystone Theatre, two children are abandoned in Sherwood Forest by their wicked uncle and saved from freezing to death by a good fairy who gets birds to cover them with leaves. In the morning, they meet Robin Hood and his Merry Men, who attack Nottingham castle and force the evil Sheriff to ensure justice is done.

Babes in the Wood, pantomime, Roleystone Theatre, festive, Graduate Dramatic Society, GRADS, kids, children, family, performing arts
Grant Malcolm, left, as Sir Jasper Pennypinch and Barry Park as Dame Martha Twitchett in the pantomime Babes in the Wood. Picture: Melissa Merchant

Director Stephen Lee describes Babes in the Wood as fun with a capital F. "We have a dame played by a man and a principal boy, Robin Hood, who is a girl in tights and two songs specially written for the show," he said. "I love pants as a form of entertainment I have written and directed five to date and still find them a pleasure to produce.

"What truly appeals to me is the history and tradition of a 300-year-old art form that is constantly changing yet always keeps, at its core, a complete irreverence and refusal to take itself seriously that is completely and totally British. I also find that what is often served up in Australia is only a pale reflection of the chaos and unpredictability of true pantomime. I take a great pleasure in presenting to everyone in Perth something that is really part of their cultural and theatrical heritage."

Babes in the Wood, pantomime, Roleystone Theatre, festive, Graduate Dramatic Society, GRADS, kids, children, family, performing arts
Mel Kay, centre, plays Robin Hood and rescues the children, played by Sienna Freeman and Charlie Martin, in Babes in the Wood. Picture: Melissa Merchant

Originally from the UK, Stephen has a wealth of experience and successful productions behind him, including an acting stint on The Bill and directing at Her Majesty's Theatre in the West End and the Raduga Festival in St Petersburg. Moving to Perth in 2002, he has appeared in The Elephant Man, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, The Tempest and The Winter's Tale and directed Othello, Twelfth Night, Lysistrata, A Christmas Carol and What The Butler Saw, among many others, set up The Method Studio and worked as artistic director for Attic Theatre.

Stephen has won numerous Finley Awards, including best actor for The Tempest in 2003, best play for What The Butler Saw in 2004 and best director for A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2006. He believes his biggest challenge with Babes in the Wood is making it look completely spontaneous and anarchic while, in reality, keeping the whole show on a secretly disciplined leash.

"As ever, we have a cast of about 25, a dozen songs, four different sets, magical effects, flying birds and the fun of ad-libbing and script changes," Lee said. "They say never work with children or animals but three of our main characters are under 12 and about half our chorus the same.

"We have no actual animals but do have an amazing talking dog. On top of everything else, it can be hilarious watching actors who have never done pantomime learning to cope with the fact that audience booing and heckling is not only allowed but positively encouraged!"

Babes in the Wood, pantomime, Roleystone Theatre, festive, Graduate Dramatic Society, GRADS, kids, children, family, performing arts
Barry Park, centre, is Dame Martha Twitchett in Babes in the Wood with Sienna Freeman as Jane and Charlie Martin as Jeremy. Picture: Melissa Merchant

Ten-year-old Charlie Martin plays Jeremy, one of the so-called babes of the show's title. "When his father goes away he sends Jeremy and his sister to their wicked uncle, who has an evil plan," he said. "It's a big role to play because my character is in almost every scene and I have lots of lines to learn. We also have a very short rehearsal period so we only get to do each scene a few times before the show actually opens.

"Babes in the Wood appealed because I was born in England and our family used to go to pantomimes every Christmas. They're such fun kind of shows that all ages enjoy and I love how you get to interact with the audience."

Babes in the Wood plays 8pm December 3, 4, 5, 9, 11, 12, 16, 18 and 19 with 2pm matinees December 5, 12 and 19. Tickets are $20, $15 concession book on 9397 5730 or at www.roleystonetheatre.com.au. Roleystone Theatre is located at 587 Brookton Highway, Roleystone, opposite the Croyden Road junction.

Babes in the Wood, pantomime, Roleystone Theatre, festive, Graduate Dramatic Society, GRADS, kids, children, family, performing arts
Sir Jasper Pennypinch (Grant Malcolm), Jane (Sienna Freeman), Robin Hood (Mel Kay), Jeremy (Charlie Martin) and Dame Martha Twitchett (Barry Park) are delivering festive family fun in Babes in the Wood. Picture: Melissa Merchant
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Why? It's a chance to enjoy over-the-top farcical festive fun in a traditional pantomime to suit the whole family.
When: 8pm Dec 3, 4, 5, 9, 11, 12, 16, 18 & 19; 2pm December 5, 12 & 19.
Phone: 9397 5730
Where: Roleystone Theatre, 587 Brookton Highway, Roleystone, opposite the Croyden Road junction
Cost: $20, $15 concession
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